Pitkin County moving to Green-level restrictions on Monday

Green is the least restrictive level and bars can now operate at 50% capacity

With rapidly rising COVID-19 infections seven weeks ago, Pitkin County was one of the only counties in Colorado placed under Orange-level restrictions.

But as the offseason quiet settles in, the county will become one of the only ones at the Green level, the least restrictive, come 12:01 a.m. Monday.

“This is what we’ve been seeing throughout the pandemic,” Pitkin County Public Health Interim Director Jordana Sabella said Friday. “Our visitation rates and our mobility data very closely mirrors our (COVID-19) incidence data.”

Not surprisingly, fewer people in Aspen equals fewer infections in the county. That was certainly supported by recent statistics that indicate a run of zero daily COVID-19 cases each day in Pitkin County between Monday and Thursday, and just 10 total cases in the last week, according to the state public health department.

That led Sabella to announce the move to Green beginning Monday. Local public health officials are now mostly in charge of imposing or loosening COVID-19-related restrictions.

The move from Blue to Green-level restrictions will not prompt significant differences for most residents, employees and business owners. Everyone 2 years old and older will continue to have to wear a facemask indoors, Sabella said.

Restaurants, offices, gyms, retail, events and entertainment, personal services and outdoor guided services can operate without any state restrictions, though local public health officials can impose rules, according to the state guidelines. Bars, which were allowed to open for the first time in more than a year when the county moved to blue, can operate at 50% under Green-level restrictions.

All education classes are allowed to occur in person under Green restrictions, while group sports and camps can operate at 50% capacity.

The county’s board of health is set to meet Thursday to discuss what local COVID-19-related restrictions will look like this summer. The county is set to follow the state COVID-19 Dial color-coded restrictions until May 27.

“We want to prep the community for what will happen this summer,” Sabella said.

The one metric that could force the state to step in and impose restrictions locally is the hospitalization rate, she said.

“If 85% of regional hospital capacity is threatened, that is the trigger for possible future restrictions,” Sabella said.

Local public health officials will be keeping a close eye on the number of COVID-19 patients at Aspen Valley Hospital, the number of health care workers out with virus symptoms and the capacity of regional hospitals to accept patients who need to be transferred, she said.

A lot of behavior restrictions this summer may come down to whether a person has been vaccinated. For example, Pitkin County still recommends that people who are less than 6 feet apart outside for an “extended period of time” should wear a facemask, she said.

But when it comes to interactions between people who have been fully vaccinated, the county defers to CDC guidelines that don’t recommend that people need to wear masks indoors with others who’ve been vaccinated, Sabella said.

“The bottom line … is that getting vaccinated is the best strategy (to stay healthy),” she said. “The more folks who are vaccinated, the less transmission we will see.”

Pitkin County has stopped holding first-dose mass vaccination clinics, though second-dose clinics occurred Friday at Aspen High School and will occur May 14 at Aspen High School and May 20 at the Buttermilk Ski Area parking lot, said Phyllis Mattice, assistant county manager.

In addition, Pitkin County public health officials want to hear from local businesses interested in vaccinating their employees, Mattice said. A mass clinic for local hospitality employees may occur soon, and she encouraged businesses, like the restaurant industry, interested in getting employees the COVID-19 vaccine to band together and contact the county public health department.

“We can help them do it,” Mattice said.

Call the county’s vaccine hotline at 970-429-3350 for more information.

Another resource for finding information about vaccines and where to get them in the Roaring Fork Valley is, which also contains statistical information about local infections, testing locations and current local COVID-19 restrictions.

County officials also will be keeping close track of the CDC announcement next week authorizing emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine in children ages 12 to 15. Public health personnel can set up a mass vaccination clinic for children in that age group if that is determined to be the best course of action, Mattice said.

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